I’ve been a lot quiet lately, due to events in my private life which I’d prefer to remain private; suffice to say I received a kick in the nuts that put a spanner in the works. And affected productivity.

However, I was compelled to come out of quarantine by the latest ‘covidevelopments’. Readers will know I’ve been doing lots of voluntary work both for the NHS and for my local group called Nantwich Buddies. I had begun to rein in these activities to concentrate on writing and trying to earn some much-needed money, but given the second wave of this horrible virus (and my kick in the nuts) I decided I should go on with my efforts to help those at the coalface. Hence I’ll be putting in shifts at my nearest hospital, plus doing shopping and delivering medications to those in isolation.

I feel good about that, but the good feeling is often tainted as I go out and about and see some let’s say rather questionable goings-on. For example in my local supermarket yesterday. I don’t want to name names, let’s just say it begins with M and ends with S. And rhymes with Borrison’s. So there I am, in Borrison’s, perfunctorily filling my trolley with a wonky wheel, and getting ready to pay.

The queueing system is sensible enough, two-metre distances clearly marked, but the aisle happens to be the one which is piled high with bargain festive products. I say festive, let’s instead call it garishly-coloured plastic shit. I’m talking of course about Halloween, which anyway has never been my most favourite time of year, with its smoky stench and din of fireworks that’ll go on till New Year’s Day. When I was a kid, fireworks just happened on November 5th but now seem to happen all year round. Why is that?

Never mind, I digress. Where was I? Plastic shit. Halloween masks, skulls, skeletons, oddly-phallic weaponry that lights up till the batteries run out tomorrow, pumpkins, witches’ hats and spiders dancing and bobbing on elastic that will snap tomorrow. Remember, this is the aisle in which we are queueing, waiting interminably for a cashier to become available, and inevitably, at some point, there will be a family of fuckwits joining our throng. A family of fuckwits with fuckwit children who of course inevitably, will be attracted to all the aforementioned garishly-coloured plastic shit.

But actually that’s not strictly true, because the fuckwit parents are just as attracted as the kids. Two people and four metres in front of me, there is the fuckwit family in question, made up of two unmarried lard-arses with a trolley full of Stella, pepperoni pizza and Mr Kipling’s apple pies, and four children of questionable parentage and burgeoning obesity. But it’s not Stella, pizza and pies they’re after right now – they can wait till they get home and the giant telly’s woken up – it’s plastic shit they want.

So the kids, ageing probably from two to twelve, are trying on all the masks and mock-fighting with the phallic swords. “Put it back!” the woman keeps screeching. “They’re only playin’,” says the bloke, and to emphasise his alpha status begins to join in the fun, causing his lard-arse missus to cave in and laugh. “Makes yer fink who’s the kid here, dunnit?” she says to the lady behind, who does not answer.

None of us answers, we just begin to shift uneasily, fearing what’s going to happen. And sure enough, said bloke starts putting on masks and growling at his cackling kids. “What about this one?” he snarls, donning a Dracula mask, “I’m comin’ to bite yer necks!”

Now I like a bit of fun as much as the next man, and admittedly my mood has been a bit dark of late so I’m perhaps a little indisposed, but here the potential danger is not lost on me, especially when a kid from another family yet quite possibly somehow related somewhere along the line, pushes past me in the queue and joins in. We now have what I can only describe as plastic carnage, with deathly cross-fertilisation that negates the effort we’ve all made to put on our Covid masks and sanitise our wonky trolleys as reliably advised.

Being British, we in the queue say nothing, but as we throw each other furtive glances it’s clear we’re not happy. We can’t really speak, our masks weirdly prevent us from doing so, but it’s all in the eyes. I want to speak though. I want to call the bloke an ignorant lard-arse, I want to tell him to put his hand in his pocket and buy all the plastic shit he’s contaminated or fuck off. I want to report to a member of staff, pointing out the dangers and the futility of our wearing masks when germs are at this moment being released onto the plastic shit to be allowed to sit in wait to ambush the next gormless fuckwit family that happens along…

“Grrrrrr!” growls the fuckwit father, “Are you frikened?”

“No,” I want to say, “Perhaps if you just take off all the masks, go naked, your ugly fuckwit face will scare them shitless anyway.” But I do not say this. I just go on rolling my eyes and tutting to myself.

I am making a serious point. Which is this: it’s all very well having the social-distancing, the rule of six, the three-tier system, the ten o’clock curfew, the lockdown, the sanitising wonky trolleys, the masks, the volunteering to help the NHS in their unfailing efforts to beat this horrid virus… But what use are all these measures when people are blatantly flouting rules? What use are all our efforts when ignorance is blissfully happening, when fuckwittishness is rife? Yet in a way I can’t blame this fuckwit family, because don’t the supermarkets have a responsibility too? Surely it takes just a little bit of care and thought about how they merchandise items such as all this plastic shit? Does it need to be so accessible? Does it need to be even there at all? Fireworks are locked in cases because of their deadliness, yet here we have plastic shit that could be just as deadly if breathed on by different fuckwit families from different fuckwit households.

Or perhaps I’m just being a killjoy, and the fact my nuts are still aching has made me unduly grumpy.

You can read my short story, “Last Halloween” in the anthology “Day Return to Cocoa Yard”…

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